Did President Obama lie about Osama bin Laden? (UPDATED)

President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden, along with with members of the national security team, receive an update on the mission against Osama bin Laden in the Situation Room of the White House, May 1, 2011. Please note: a classified document seen in this photograph has been obscured. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden, along with with members of the national security team, receive an update on the mission against Osama bin Laden in the Situation Room of the White House, May 1, 2011. Please note: a classified document seen in this photograph has been obscured. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

(Update — Vox.com’s Max Fischer really tears Hersh’s account apart, pointing out many inconsistencies and showing just how it doesn’t hold up to scrutiny. Read it here.)

Seymour Hersh claims President Obama lied about the raid that took out Osama bin Laden. According to Hersh, the raid part is true for the most part, but he claims the administration lied when it said Pakistani authorities didn’t know about the┬áraid, weren’t warned we were going in, and didn’t know OBL was hiding in Pakistan. Hersh claims OBL had actually been a prisoner of Pakistani authorities since 2006, and when we found out in 2010┬áPakistan had him, we worked with two high-level Pakistani officials to go into the compound and kill him. According to Hersh’s account, OBL didn’t reach for a weapon or try to fire back, and that the whole point of the raid was just to go in and murder him.

Hersh bases his claims on one single anonymous source, and he refuses to cite any other sources to back up the story. Everything else cited in the article is speculation. We can’t take this report seriously until Hersh produces some verifiable claims and known sources.

Hersh used to be a great journalist and has broken some big stories in the past, including the Abu Ghraib scandal. But lately he’s been going off the deep end. This time, he’s making an earth-shattering claim based on one anonymous source he refuses to name… and nothing else. That’s just not credible.

Is the story believable? Maybe. But the problem here isn’t that the story is unbelievable, but that it’s based on such flimsy hearsay evidence that we can’t question or verify.

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Earlier updates: NBC News is reporting that two sources tell them that Pakistani authorities knew where bin Laden was. And Justin Salhani has written a cogent takedown of Hersh’s piece on Think Progress. Read it here.)

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